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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

New Year Resolutions

… or the lack of.

There have been years in which I have a long list of new year resolutions, and surprise, surprise, I didn’t complete it. And there have been years in which I have a really short list, and still, I managed to not complete it. So this year, I am not going to have any. I mean, why lie to myself?

Besides, sometimes announcing that I am going to do something has the effect of making me feel like it has already been done. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that it’s a fallacy that my mind falls into.

That is not to say that I don’t have any goals that I want to accomplish though. I now have something better – a ticket system / bug tracker!

What the hell is that, you asked?

I’ve seen ticket systems used in engineering, customer service, etc. but it’s probably the most widely used in software development, the line of work I am in. The work flow usually goes something like this:

1) Developers (people like me) make software.
2) QA (quality assurance) tests the software, and when they find a problem, they write up a ticket with the descriptions (such as “button doesn’t work”), mark it new/open, and assign it to me.
3) I read the ticket, and either work on it or decide why I won’t work on it. I then mark the ticket as “resolved” and give a reason such as fixed (“There, I fixed it”), cannot reproduce (“I don’t know what you guys are smoking”, or not a bug (“That’s right, quit wasting my time”). I assign it back to QA.
4) QA will double check to verify if it’s fixed. If it is fixed, they “close” the ticket. If it’s not fixed, they write a comment about it and assign it back to me.

It can also be used as a todo list. I can also write a ticket for a task that I want to do, and assign it to myself. And when it’s done, I close it or assign it to QA to verify.

One thing I noticed was that I am quite organized when it comes to work. Notes are taken. Charts are made. Tasks I’ve done are usually better documented than that of my co-workers. And stuff gets done. I also noticed that I am organized when I treat something like work, such as helping family members with car shopping or planning out videos. So I figured, if I want to get more done, I should treat those items more like work.

So now I have a constantly updated list of tickets with more serious tasks like “gather documents together for filing taxes”, “pay rent”, “go over credit card statement”, as well as errands like “take out the trash”, “return the phone call”, or unimportant (or rather, REALLY important) things like “watch last week’s ___ (insert name of TV show)” or “watch ___ (insert name of Youtube video that I meant to watch but was at work)”. And yes, I also have one called “write blog post about new year resolutions”.

With that, I should get more stuff done this year. So no new year resolutions. Whatever that’s going to be done is just going to be broken down into subtasks. I will write them up, assign them to myself, work on them, and close them when they are done. This is more concrete and productive for me, anyway.

Let’s see how long I keep this up!

PS. If you are technologically inclined and want to know which system I am using: it’s Mantis. It’s not bad. I also looked into Bugzilla and Trac, but in the end, I just wanted to get something working and was too lazy to figure out how to get to my server’s shell and all the other settings. In the end I just picked Mantis because it’s based on PHP and MySQL, and I am already familiar with how that was set up on my server.

First Lines from 2011

Inspired by this post, here is a list of the first sentence from the first blog post of each month. Interesting way to look back at last year. I also did this in 2008.

January: It is a little late for Christmas specials now, but recently I came across this video of bloopers from Jim Henson’s 1977 special Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas.

In my true procrastinator fashion, I was still talking about Christmas when it was already the new year. Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas was one of the best Christmas specials of all time though!

February: (none)

Hm, an entire month without any blog post. I guess I have been very busy working on something…

March: So, I have been very busy working on an iPhone project for a client which should be submitted in the near future.

Ah, that explained it. I went on to talk about hilarious dreams that made me laugh myself awake though. That was fun.

April: So the other day I was thinking about my professional life.

This was sort of a lame attempt at an April Fools prank. The one from 2009 was sooooo much better.

May: And it’s time for our graduation show!

And it was fun!

June: This video is made by fellow cast member Herman Gonzales.

And it was fun!

July: (none)

Hm, not a post for the entire month. Wow, I certainly neglected this blog for quite a while.

August: Wow, I certainly neglected this blog for quite a while.

Yes indeed.

September: Over the weekend, I played once again the first computer game I played as a kid.

And it was fun!

October: I recently read this article called “Eight Ironic Effects of Thought Suppression”.

Hm, talking about dreams again. I sure love dreaming, don’t I?

November: Once upon a time, a Pilgrim and an Indian were discussing the upcoming Thanksgiving party.

Ah, another one of my dumb stories. Unfortunately, no happy ending (for the turkeys anyway).

December: Isn’t that a cool picture?

We did the Puppet Jukebox sequel and it was fun!

Quite a busy year with plenty of work, and lots of weeks spent rehearsing and performing.

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012

It’s January 1, time to look back at the year 2011, which had been an interesting year for me. Looking at my own blog posts, I noticed that I wasn’t posting as much and sometimes could go a month without posting anything. But when I did, they were often things that were quite memorable for me.

In 2011, I took Christian Anderson’s Theatre Puppetry class. His teaching style was very hyper and energetic, compared to Michael’s more mellow style, and the class was a lot of fun. This eventually led to a show, Puppet Jukebox, that was performed four times in front of sold-out audiences. I’ve performed on stage many times before, but I’ve never performed with so many puppeteers at the same time. It was quite a fun experience and I’ve also met many friends along the way. Some of us came back for Puppet Jukebox II in December. The experience the second time around was quite different, as I felt like I was just hanging out with friends, more so than actually putting on a show. So that was quite fun too. Good times.

In June, I entered a video into a contest for a pair of front row tickets for Les Miserables, one of my favorite musical that I practically memorized. I did not win the contest but somehow Matt Lucas, who performed the show in London, came across the video and Tweeted about it. To me, that was more of a win than actually winning the tickets. Besides, they decided to give every contestant a pair of front orchestra tickets so we still got to see the opening night of Les Miserables. Best consolation prize, ever.

And the Muppets movie was fun. I went with a bunch of Muppets fans to the opening night, and we all brought puppets. A movie is always better when you watch it with lots of enthusiastic fans. I will write more about this later, but I just want to say that I really enjoy hanging out with puppeteers. They are generally not people that are full of themselves. You can tell because they are willing to hide away or put themselves in uncomfortable positions to make someone else (the puppet) look good. They also tend to have a sense of humor and are willing to accept many kinds of ideas. (Come on, who are you to judge someone else when you are an adult that play with puppets?) I love these people.

There were quite some changes with my work situation too. I left the company that I had been working with for six years or so and started freelancing. Actually, it was more like the company fell apart. When your company only had four people, and one was going to Japan for a few months to study Japanese, and the main person who runs the company was planning his wedding and going on honeymoon, it was hard for the company to function. Timing-wise it worked out very well as well. I wanted to go out there and test the water anyway. After freelancing for a few months, I found a job and started working at a big company for the very first time.

Actually the timing worked out pretty well too. The recruiter originally told me that I would need to wait two weeks or so for the interview, because it happened to be a very busy time at the company. I actually didn’t mind at all, since I had a trip planned to go to Pittsburgh for my sister’s graduation. And after I interviewed, I actually took a wrong turn and ended up in the general area of where we rehearsed the show. I was at Starbucks checking my email to see what I should do next when I ran into the costume designer for the show and ended up going in to try on my costumes. Eventually I was told that I got the job but I would need to wait another few weeks for the paper work to go through and the equipments to be ordered. That actually worked out perfectly again, since I needed a little bit of time to wrap up my existing freelance contracts and I did not want work to interfere with me going to see Les Miserables. (The period of freelancing really got me used to scheduling work around play, rather than the other way around, which might or might not be a good thing…) And once again, the timing of everything worked out perfectly. Interesting how everything worked out that way.

So 2011 has been a good year for me, overall. Now how about some new year resolutions for 2012?

Well, I don’t really have any new year resolutions for 2012, because I don’t really keep them. No point in stating them then. Yeah, I do have things that I want to get done, but new year resolutions just aren’t a good way of doing it. I shall write more about this later.

Have a happy new year, everyone! 😀

How to Bark at a Dog

Today, I came across an article called Dealing With Aggressive Dogs: Make Your Bark Worse than Your Bike. It was written by a cyclist who had tried different ways of dealing with dogs and eventually realized that barking worked well as well. Many people agreed with him in the comments section about the wonders of barking. The article went into the proper way of doing it, what words to use, what mental picture and emotions to conjure up. It was a good guide, if you ever need to know how to bark.

This, of course, reminded me of a post I wrote last year titled Barked at a Dog Today, written after barking at a dog to scare it away. Apparently, I didn’t need any lessons. It came naturally. I already intuitively knew how to bark at a dog effectively.

Nice talent to have, huh? :-)

The First Computer Game I Played

Over the weekend, I played once again the first computer game I played as a kid. It was an 1990 game based on a period of Chinese history known as the Chu-Han Contention (楚漢之爭). After the Qin (秦) Dynasty met its demise, China was broken into Eighteen Kingdoms. The two strongest kingdom were Chu (楚) and Han (漢), and Han eventually defeated Chu and unified China to create the Han Dynasty. This took place around year 240 B.C. and became my favorite period of Chinese history to read about.

The game was not considered great, but back in 1990, there simply weren’t that many Chinese language games available in Taiwan. Let’s look at a few screen shots.

This is the main screen. You can see the map, and all the other information like how developed your land is, how much gold you have, how much rice you have, and how many soliders you have. At the bottom of the screen is the menu that allows you to do different things like drafting civilians into the army, developing the land, and waging wars.

Of course, you can’t do everything yourself. It’s time to find people to work for you! In the following picture, this person says 願為主公執戟, which literally translates to “I am willing to hold the halberd for my master”. Basically it’s a quasi-classic-Chinese way of saying “I agree to serve as a general for you”. How very exciting.

And it’s time for the battle! Each side is allowed to send five generals to the frontline (kinda like basketball). They each can bring take 30000 soliders with them. Kinda arbitrary, but whatever, it’s an old game. You attack one another by standing in place waving your weapon and flapping your arms in the air. Hooray!

And after you win the battle, you see this picture. Look how happy the soliders are! Big grins and everything.

And finally, you defeat everybody else and see this picture that says you’ve unified China. Um, yay?

It took me around two hours to beat the game this time. No, it was not the kind of game that you can play for months. After all, it was originally sold on two 5 1/4 inch floppy disks, so the entire game is smaller than one mp3 file these days. My hard drive back them held 40MB of data, where as a smart phone nowadays can easily hold hundreds times more. Time sure has changed.

But hey, it’s nostalgia. And actually, it’s pretty entertaining just to play and see what you can get away with, since the artificial intelligence simply wasn’t all that smart for a military strategy game like this. It’s really not about whether I will win, but how I won it. The most ridiculous way of winning was actually how I beat the game for the first time. Basically, I just spent all my time looking for new generals to join my army. And then I used the “skip to end of year” feature over and over. After some number of years, all these game characters started to die of old age. And when a King died, a new King was chosen among his generals. But of course, if all the generals died too, there was nobody to be the King and the kingdom ceased to exist. Well, that’s what happened to everyone else. Since artificial intelligence was not smart enough to notice this problem, I was the only one who kept looking for new generals that were not old enough to die yet. Eventually, every other kingdom died out and I unified China without waging any war. That was dumb, but it was an amusing way to win.

Scarborough Fair

Wow, I certainly neglected this blog for quite a while. I am not going to say I will update on a regular schedule from now on, cuz I know I won’t, but we’ll see what happens.

So what have I been up to? Well, I took on a new job at a big company. That is certainly something different, as I’ve never worked a regular 40-hour work week in my life. I am more used to working way more when I am busy, and way less when things are slow. But hey, got to try it out sometime. I’ve also gone from never having more than five co-workers at a time to working in a company that uses ten out of the eleven floors in the building. Let’s see how it will go in a few months. So far, so good.

The job change also made my commute three times as long (was 15 minutes, now 45), which gave me a lot of time to listen to stuff in my car. All that driving gave me a lot more time to listen to things. Sometimes I listen to the radio (which I actually really enjoy) and sometimes I listen to my own music. And when I listen to music, sometimes I have strange thoughts pop into my head, especially if the lyrics is cryptic, poetic, or simply not the most straight-forward thing.

Let’s use Scarborough Fair as an example. If you’ve never heard of the song, it’s a traditional ballad from the UK and here’s a version by one of my favorite singer, Hayley Westenra:

The thoughts that pop into my head are in the forms of dialog, like this:

A: Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
B: Nah, I think I am going to stay home.
A: Dude, they got parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme!
B: Really? I am there!

A: Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
B: I am thinking about it. I don’t have thyme.

A: Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Victoria Beckham: Nah.
A: What? But they got parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme! I thought you are a spice girl!
Victoria Beckham: Those are mostly herbs, actually.

Doesn’t make all that much sense, I know. Oh, and I happen to like traditional ballads for some reason. Here’s another one I like, called Willie o Winsbury.

While we are talking about songs and thoughts that pop into my head, when I heard “Baby Got Back” which had a line that said “Dial 1-900-MIXALOT”, I thought “Hm, I wonder who would pick up if I did?” I remembered it wrong and thought it was 1-800-mix-a-lot, though. So that’s what I dialed. That led to some kind of “Are you single? Call this number” commercial. Probably some kind of dating hotline. So that’s what the 800 number leads to. I wonder what the 900 number would lead to.

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